India vs South Africa | Talking points from Day 3 of Johannesburg Test

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India vs South Africa | Talking points from Day 3 of Johannesburg Test

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SportsCafe Desk


Umpires decided to call an early end to the day after a ball from Jasprit Bumrah hit Dean Elgar during their run-chase poetically summing up Day 3 of the Johannesburg Test. The umpires will take a call on the whether play is possible on the wicket today after a meeting between them and the captains.

Brief scores : India 187 (Virat Kohli 54, Cheteshwar Pujara 50; Kagiso Rabada 3/39, Andile Phehlukwayo 2/25) & 247 (Ajinkya Rahane 48, Virat Kohli 41; Morne Morkel 3/47, Vernon Philander 3/61) lead South Africa 194 (Hashim Amla 61, Vernon Philander 35; Jasprit Bumrah 5/54; Bhuvneshwar Kumar 3/44) & 17/1 ( Dean Elgar 11*, Mohammed Shami 1/7) by 223 runs.

Is the choker mentality back in the SA side?

One thing that stood out in South Africa’s wins over India in the first two matches, apart from AB de Villiers’ exceptional performance was the bowling unit following a plan to the letter. However, they seemed to have forgotten that on Day 3 of the final Test as the players lost all sense of control over their bowling. Even though the wrong lengths started on Day 2, it was Day 3 that proved to be their downfall. 

The main reason for the bowlers performing the way they did in the first couple of matches was the line and lengths they bowled or rather were forced to bowl. In both matches, when they had to defend modest targets, they kept bowling a nagging line at the third or the fourth stump line, on the good length area, which eventually culminated in wickets. At the Wanderers, however, they were too eager for wickets and tried to force the issue which resulted in the bowlers messing up their fundamentals that Ajinkya Rahane and Virat Kohli exploited very well. Even when the tailenders came in, the bowlers were more intent on bowling shorter deliveries rather and conventional ones or a simpler wicket to wicket line. 

Oh, and “the best fielding side in the world” also dropped two sitters that would have brought back memories from the New Zealand semi-finals in the 2015 World Cup.

South Africa need to go back to Pitch Making 101

After widespread criticism for the curators who produced the first wicket of the series in Cape Town - a match that ended in just under three actual days - Centurion was supposed to be a pitch where bat and ball could go up against each other in equal measure. And after the first session of the Test, it appeared that the fans were in for a cracker. However, as the days progressed, it became blatantly obvious that it was not the case, with a lot of wickets falling to balls that refused to bounce.

Even though India had only pride to play for in the third Test, cricket fans were still optimistic with the ever-reliable Wanderers hosting the last Test. How wrong they have been proven as the pitch turned out to be as bad, if not more, than its predecessors. Even though the batsmen somehow negated the torment of the ball swinging for almost 80 overs, Day 3 showed a new characteristic in the wicket - variable bounce. And not the kind that gets wickets, but the one that can put you on a hospital bed. 

The ball, in the fourth over of the day, that carried a piece of the pitch on its way to beating the outside edge of Cheteshwar Pujara's bat was just the start. Balls pitching in the good length area and hitting the Indian batsmen high up on the gloves became such a regularity that the umpires spent more time discussing the pitch than judging the game. While the pitch might not be as dangerous as the England-Windies game in Jamaica or even the India-Sri Lanka Kotla ODI, the irony is that the game was actually stopped when a ball bounced exactly as much as it should have.

Ajinkya Rahane’s concentration come to fore, once again

If there are two batsmen in the Indian line-up on whom the team can always rely on in away conditions, it is the captain-vice captain duo of Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane. From Durban to Lord’s, from Johannesburg to Barbados, Rahane has shown that he can be the man that India has been waiting for since the retirement of Rahul Dravid - a player who was a “beast” when playing away from home. However, his terrible form in the Sri Lanka series forced Kohli to drop him for the first two Tests of the series, but with series already conceded, India recalled him to the playing XI and he responded to the call brilliantly. 

On a pitch with unpredictable and exaggerated bounce and seam movement, Rahane showed exceptional courage and match awareness to stay there on the field and disintegrated the South Africans for the most parts of the second session. He suffered a couple of blows on his gloves, but that didn’t waver his concentration at all and for some minutes, he also forced his skipper, of all people, to play the second fiddle. To put that into perspective, he, at one point of time, was at 27 off 25 by playing all textbook shots possible - driving on the up, flicking the pacers and at the same time, giving Kohli enough time to think what might have been the case had he been given a chance to start in the first two Tests.

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